Obsession (1976)

Article 3911 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-19-2012
Posting Date: 4-29-2012
Directed by Brian De Palma
Featuring Cliff Robertson, Genevieve Bujold, John Lithgow
Country: USA
What it is: Arty thriller

A real estate man, torn with guilt over the role he played in the death of his wife, meets a woman who looks just like her in Florence. He decides to marry her… but will he find that history repeats itself…?

Usually with De Palma, I tend to go on about his obsession with the work of Alfred Hitchcock, but even I’m a little bored with that anymore. I find it more useful to consider him as someone who likes to play variations on some of Hitchcock’s themes. Here he’s taking one of the central gimmicks in VERTIGO and doing his spin on it. He manages to gather some strong talent to help him out; the three leads all do fine work (especially Cliff Robertson), Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography is excellent, and so is Bernard Herrmann’s score. There’s some story problems, especially towards the end of the movie, when certain characters start acting with uncharacteristic stupidity. But I think the primary problem I have with this movie is that I find myself emotionally detached from it; there’s a number of times where the camera tricks and arty touches call too much attention to themselves, drawing us away from the suspense and emotion. I do have to admit that De Palma can surprise you on occasion; I certainly wasn’t expecting the movie to end on the note that it did, but even that final moment is hoodwinked by the camera trickery. Incidentally, I’m not sure just how much the movie can be considered genre; it flirts with madness and touches momentarily (and not quite explicitly) on the theme of reincarnation. But then, I’ve also covered VERTIGO and had the same reservations about that one as well.


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